Talk to anybody who’s been part of the music business in recent years and they’ll tell you artist development is a difficult thing. Major record labels find new acts, rush them to market, burn them out and toss them aside for the next “Big Thing”. For an artist to be four or five albums in to a recording career and still evolving is a major accomplishment. This week we feature three artists at different points in their career path; One just starting phase two of his career as a solo artist after being part of one of the biggest bands of the last 20 years; another starting to show signs of maturity and growth after being part of the pop machine; and, a third, 50 years in to her recording career and preparing to retire from the spotlight.
Add It To The Collection… Oasis was one of the biggest bands of 90’s and early 2000’s with their Beatlesque melodies and arena-sized guitar hooks. Unfortunately the brothers Gallagher couldn’t hold things together and the band became more famous for their fights and media one-liners than the music. In 2009 the band officially broke up with lead singer and antagonist Liam going on to form Beady Eye (basically Oasis minus brother Noel Gallagher), and soon thereafter Noel was planning his first solo album as Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. NGHFB’s debut self-titled album picks up where the best of Oasis left off. Beautiful sweeping melodies accompanied by roaring guitars, sing-along choruses and just enough Beatles production to keep that whole Oasis/Beatles comparison alive. Noel is clearly capable as a lead singer and his song writing is in tip top shape with standout tracks “Dream On”, “If I Had A Gun” and “AKA What A Life”. This is the most consistent collection of tracks by any Oasis-related musician since the career-defining What’s The Story (Morning Glory), and the good news is Noel has his second solo album ready to go – no waiting for his brother to come along for the ride. Must-have track: “(I Wanna Live In A Dream In My) Record Machine”
Worth Another Listen… There has been no shortage of Canadian music exports over the years. From Neil Young to Rush, the Great White North has produced its fair share of rock royalty. Unfortunately, in recent years Canada also has the infamous distinction of producing multi-platinum acts like Nickelback and Beiber (sorry world). Back in 2004 I can remember watching season 2 of Canadian Idol and thinking this kid Jacob Hoggard from British Columbia has the “it” factor. He ended up finishing third that year but, as is the case with Idol, he got his name and voice out there and didn’t have to play the ‘Idol’ game. Hoggard went back to BC, reconfigured his pre-Idol band, Hedley, and worked hard to write, record and tour behind some pretty solid pop/punk albums. Hedley returned this past week with their fourth album, Storms, featuring their strongest material to date. Hoggard continues to grow as a singer, songwriter and front man and the band stretches out their sound on tracks like “One Life” and “Invincible” which sound more like OneRepublic than Green Day. There’s no reason why Hedley shouldn’t break big in the U.S. with Storms. Must-have track: “Beautiful”
Skip It … Earlier this year, rhythm and blues legend Etta James announced that her latest record, The Dreamer, would be her final release. At 73, James has lived a hard life and with her health deteriorating in recent years I expected James to put out a reflective final album similar to Johnny Cash’s American IV or Glen Campbell’s recently released Ghost On The Canvas. The Dreamer isn’t a bad record, it just isn’t as strong as some of her other collections. The voice is still strong and sultry but the material is just a little disjointed. You get Guns ‘N’ Roses’ “Welcome To The Jungle” mixed in with “Boondocks” by Little Big Town – both great tracks in their own right, but they miss the mark here. The one stand out moment on The Dreamer is James’ take on Otis Redding’s “Cigarettes and Coffee”. Let’s hope Ms. James comes out of retirement one more time to make her definitive final statement.